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Politicians should be ‘properly informed’ about HIQA’s regulatory process

HIQA’s board has discussed the importance of ensuring public representatives are “properly informed about the extant regulatory processes” in order to maintain trust in the regulator’s role.

At its meeting on 2 December 2020, Chief Inspector of Social Services and Director of Regulation Ms Mary Dunnion updated the board on comments by a member of the Dáil about a recent cancellation of the registration of a nursing home, which had been the subject of media attention. The facility in question was Oaklands Nursing Home, Co Kerry.

“She advised the board that she had written to the TD to set out the background and sequence of events of the case to which his comments referred,” according to the minutes.

A spokesperson for HIQA told the Medical Independent there was “no misunderstanding” regarding the TD’s remarks. The correspondence sought to clarify the role and function of the Chief Inspector and explained the aligned enforcement powers and regulatory framework.

During the meeting, Ms Dunnion also drew the board’s attention to the “increased challenge from providers to inspectors assessing compliance with national infection control guidance and policy”.

Regulation 27 of the Health Act 2007 requires each registered provider to ensure that procedures, consistent with the standards for infection prevention and control, are implemented by staff. The 2018 National Standards for infection prevention and control in community services set the expectation that a provider can demonstrate the implementation of any available clinical practice guideline, including material from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Infection control guidance on Covid-19 outbreaks in residential care facilities is an example of such a document. Therefore, to comply with regulation 27, a provider must be able to demonstrate how they have implemented the national standards and the most up-to-date guidance.

“This creates additional pressure on the Directorate by diverting resources from inspection activity,” according to the minutes.

“It was noted that the Department of Health has been advised of this development.”

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